Lake Brownwood continued to rise, residents loaded up sandbags and plans were in place to open a shelter if needed — although much of Brown County had escaped serious flooding as of Thursday evening. The prospects for today aren’t as optimistic, however.
As midnight approached, Lake Brownwood rose to 4.25 feet above spillway, and forecasts called for it to peak at perhaps 5 feet this morning — assuming no more rain, Donald Hatcher, City of Brownwood Division director of public works, said. Water levels that high would probably cause flooding inside some businesses near East Commerce and the Traffic T, he said.
Any additional rain would make flooding even worse, and storm clouds were forming late Thursday night. The bands were described by weather officials as similar to tropical storms, tightening around a core and circulating over the same areas.
C.C. Woodson on either side of the Pecan Bayou was closed, as were FM 2525 (Williams Ranch Road) and Riverside Drive leading into Riverside Park.
Bruner Motors and Mears Ford were taking preliminary measures to protect their vehicles from flood waters, Hatcher said.
A few Lake Brownwood residents left on their own, but there were no mandatory evacuations and only a few road closings, officials said.
“Everything is full,” Brownwood Emergency Management Coordinator James Cook said late Thursday afternoon. “We’re not in a flood right now but we’re in a waiting stage, where it could flood if we get rain in the right places.”
Rain drenched the area Thursday, and Lake Brownwood was continuing to rise Thursday night at a rate of about .10 of a foot an hour.
But more rain through the night was likely, thanks to a stationary low pressure system, National Weather Service meteorologist Kimberly Hoeppner said. She said 1 to 3 inches was possible by 8 a.m. Just under 2 inches fell during the day Thursday, she said.
Cook said additional rainfall’s effect on the lake level would depend on how fast it entered the lake.
“It it’s a slow rain, it will go into the lake slow and not affect us too much,” he said.
Minessa Mesic, executive director of the Brownwood Red Cross office, said she knew of at least five families who had voluntarily left their homes. She said local disaster assessment teams were touring the Lake Brownwood area, and one team had reported back late Thursday afternoon that some mobile homes had small amounts of water inside.
Officials were prepared to open the Adams Street Community Center Thursday night as a shelter in the event of mandatory evacuations, Mesic said.
“I don’t know how bad this is going to get,” Mesic said. “I think we’ll know by (today) if we dodged (flooding). I don’t think we know yet. We’re OK at this point. I’m not saying we’re great or anything. We’re OK.”
Water flowing over the Lake Brownwood spillway prompted a common description — “Niagara Falls” — from John Chisholm, general manager of the Brown County Water Improvement District. He said the spillway was attracting many onlookers Thursday.
“It’s beautiful, awesome and kind of scary,” Chisholm said of the overflow at the spillway.
“We’re still kind of rising slowly from all the rain we had (Wednesday) night,” Chisholm said.
City officials in Brownwood and Early made sandbags available Thursday to any residents who wanted to pick them up.